Well, this is the true end, and I really, really hope you enjoy it.



Chapter 36

A Tale of You and Me (III)

When she walked into the living room, ten minutes later, she found Ron sitting on the couch with Rose in his arms, feeding her.

"Hi," she said, a bit timidly.

Ron looked at her, gave her a tentative smile and responded, "hey."

She approached them slowly, bent over and gave Rose a kiss before retreating a bit and dropping onto one of the armchairs. "I saw Harry today. He told me you went to have a drink."

"Yeah," he said, not looking at her, and they fell into an uncomfortable silence, their fight acting as a wall between them. After a while, Ron let out a sigh, and, with a contrite expression etched upon his face, he raised his head and stared at her.

"I'm sorry, Hermione, for this morning," he blurted out. "I wasn't angry at you, you know. It's just —" he started to explain. "It's just that everything was going well, I was going to crack the eggs, but then I had one of those flashes. I saw lots of things, and couldn't think straight anymore. Dropped the eggs and couldn't remember I was preparing the toasts. I wanted to make you a good breakfast, and when I saw the mess I had caused, I just — just lost it."

"It's all right, Ron," said Hermione, giving him a smile. "I promised you I would tell you off if you were being an arse, didn't I?"

"Yeah," he nodded, and smiled too. "Thank you for that. I deserved a good scolding, even if I didn't appreciate it at the time."

"Anytime," she said, and her smile widened.

"Do you forgive me, then?"

"There's nothing to forgive, Ron."

"Thank you." He looked down at Rose, and Hermione watched them for a few moments before asking, "those flashes … are they frequent?"

"No," answered Ron. "Not with that intensity, at least. When I suffer one of them I'm suddenly overwhelmed by memories and information and stuff, but there are other times when I simply can't remember things I used to know … typically, they pop up into my mind after a while, but sometimes ..."

"Sometimes what?"

"Sometimes I don't, and those memories are lost forever. But it's getting better," he added quickly in a reassuring tone.

"You're saying you're suffering amnesia, Ron!" she shouted, very upset. "Why didn't you tell me? You should see a healer and —"

"Hermione," Ron said, interrupting her rant, "It's not amnesia. I cannot expect to remember everything I did. It's impossible. My mind is just adapting. It's worse when I'm worried, or feel stressed or frustrated. But if I manage to keep calm, then everything's fine."

Hermione stared at him with suspicion, wondering if he was telling the truth or just sugar-coating it.

"I'm fine, really," he assured her.

"Mmmh," she said, not completely convinced. "OK, I'll accept your word for now," she added, giving in. "but if it doesn't get better —"

"Then yes, I'll seek help. And now that that's settled, do you mind changing Rose while I make some tea?"

"Why have I got to change her? Why can't I make the tea? You change her, don't you? While I'm not home."

"Well, yeah, but I do it manually, and you use your wand."

"Manually?" she repeated, staring at him with incredulity. "How?"

"I — I bought diapers in the supermarket, in the village, yesterday."

"You bought diapers," she said, astonished.

"Well, yeah," he said, caressing the back of his head with a sheepish expression on his face. "You know I don't feel comfortable using spells on her yet, and she smelled quite badly. You remember I told you I took her for a walk? Well, that's the reason."

"But you've never changed Muggle diapers before."

"It took me a few tries, yes, but I managed in the end. It's not Arithmancy, is it?"

"I suppose not," shrugged Hermione, who had never changed diapers the Muggle way before, either. "Well, give her to me then, I'm dying for that cup of tea."

After having tea, and as the weather was good, Ron suggested going out for a bit, maybe to the village. Hermione agreed immediately, happy, so they put on their Muggle clothes, put Rose on the baby carriage and then began to walk along the road. They drifted around the village and made a stop at the park. And when night started to fall, Ron suggested having dinner there, in the village, instead walking back to the house and preparing it, and Hermione was quick to accept, excited by the idea. It would be a nice change, to spend time with Ron and Rose out of the house, like a normal couple. It was what she used to dream about, before all that madness had started. So they talked about where to go, and ended up in a restaurant where they had been a few times in the past and that both liked.

The evening turned out to be very pleasant, and, when two and a half hours later she was getting into bed, Hermione was the happiest she had felt since March. The day had started in a very bad way, but it was how it ended what counted, wasn't it? If just Ron got into bed with her, and they could sleep snuggling into each other, then the day would have been perfect — but, well, one couldn't have everything …

She woke up softly, not knowing for how long she had been sleeping. She opened her eyes and blinked a few times, a bit confused. It was still night, because the room was dimly lit. Moving her head a bit, she looked towards the window, and saw, surprised, that Ron was there.

He was leaning against the window frame, looking up into the sky, his ruffled hair and long nose illuminated by the moonlight. He seemed to be contemplating the stars, or the moon, or maybe all at once; and there was such longing in his expression that Hermione felt her heart break at the sight. She stared at him for a while, enthralled by the image, wishing that there was something she could do to erase that sad expression from his freckled face, wishing that she could give him something to compensate him from what he had lost.

Suddenly, he let out a long yawn. He put his left hand into the pocket of the pyjama bottoms he was wearing and produced something that looked like a vial. Absentmindedly, he opened it and then drowned its contents in one gulp.

"What's that?" Hermione blurted out, worried.

Ron screamed and jumped on the spot, startled, and dropped the vial, which broke at contact with the floor.

"Don't do that, you almost gave me a heart attack!" he scolded her, panting and clutching his chest.

"What was that, Ron?" she demanded, ignoring his outburst. She got out of the bed.

"Nothing," he said, looking away.

"It wasn't nothing," she replied, taking her wand from the nightstand and approaching him. She vanished the pieces of glass from the broken vial and then looked at Ron once more, folding her arms. "Well? I'm waiting for an answer."

He looked at her again, their eyes locked, and then he said, "It was a Sleepless Potion. Happy?"

"A Sleep—? Why?" she demanded. "Why are you taking a Sleepless potion?"

"Because I don't want to sleep. Obvious, isn't it?"

"Why not?"

"Fuck, Hermione," he moaned, shaking his head. "I just can't — I can't stand it, OK?"

"You are not sleeping?" she asked, bewildered.

"Have you seen me sleep?" he asked back, defiant.

"You told me you were sleeping! That you didn't do it at night, but I thought you took naps during the day. And that was last week, I thought that now you slept a bit at night too, that you just woke up early!"

"I never told you that I was sleeping."

Hermione frowned, glaring at him. Ron held her gaze for a bit, but then looked down, a bit ashamed. "Well, maybe once or twice," he admitted. "I just didn't want any of you to worry about me."

"You didn't want —" she started to say, but then stopped, suddenly realising what he was confessing. "You're telling me that you haven't slept at all since — since ten days ago?"

"Well, technically, it's been years, but yeah, that's what I'm telling you."

"You have been taking Sleepless Potion to keep you awake?"


"Ron! A Sleepless Potion can be used for three, four nights at most! Not ten!"

"The standard version, yes. But I altered it a bit."

"You altered it?" She was going to yell at him, but, taking a deep breath, managed to refrain. She needed to get to the bottom of this. "Are you saying that you made it? When? How? Ron, you'd better start explaining, and 'I don't want to talk about it' won't serve you this time!"

Ron stared at her for almost a minute, while Hermione's impatience grew. She began to tap her foot on the floor.

"OK," he said at last, sighing. He turned to look out of the window once more. "I spent that first night awake, Hermione. It was true that I wasn't tired, at first, and the fear of darkness kept me alert. But in the morning, after you all left for work, I sat on the couch, thinking about what to do. Bored, I turned on the TV and — just fell asleep." He made a pause and gulped, and Hermione understood that the memory was not pleasant. "I woke up screaming a few minutes later, completely terrified. I didn't know where I was, or what had happened. I think I had a nightmare, though I'm not completely sure. I had to go for a glass of water, shaking. You must understand I hadn't slept in a long, long time, and losing control of my body and mind like that felt simply horrible. Once I'd calmed down a bit, I tried to practise magic to keep me occupied, but I felt more tired as time went. A bit before your parents came for lunch I couldn't avoid to fall asleep again, and it was the same. I think I was still shaking when they entered the house.

"After that, I knew I couldn't sleep, but I also knew that, as a normal human, I couldn't avoid it. Fortunately, as I told you, Antoine and Rhoda came, and I asked them to buy me the ingredients for the potion. Like you, they told me the potion wouldn't work forever, but I knew exactly how to modify it to make it more effective and remove the unwanted side-effects of the standard potion. I knew that even that enhanced version couldn't keep me awake forever, but I hoped that, when it stopped working, I would be able to sleep without being frightened to death. Ever since, I've taking a vial every night. I've only got another fifteen or so left."

Hermione stared at him in awe, not knowing how to feel. Sad for him, for having to endure this? Angry, for lying to her? hurt, for having been kept in the dark regarding such a problem?"

"I don't know what to say, Ron."

"Hermione, I'm sorry. I know you're angry, but I didn't want to worry you, and I knew you would suggest seeking help, or something like that, and I didn't think anyone could help me — I still think that, to be honest."

"You didn't want to worry me, but you didn't mind telling them," she blurted out, unable to avoid showing how hurt she was. "I'm your wife, Ron, even in our — our situation, I expect you to confide in me, to trust me! Maybe I could have helped you!"


"I don't know!" she shouted, angry. "I don't know, Ron! How could I know, when you don't tell me anything? I knew that during that last duel, when you both were in that trance, something happened when I approached you, and you don't tell me. I don't really know how you both lost your powers, either, and you don't tell me. Maybe I can't help you, Ron, but even if I could, you're not letting me!" she wiped her eyes, realising she was crying. "I understand how hard this is for you, even if I cannot really imagine it, but it's happened, Ron. You're no longer a Master of Essence, and you've got to live with it. I don't know what will happen with us, but at least let me try! Tonight — tonight was the first night I felt a bit normal in months. Please …" she finished, not sure about what she was begging for.

Ron looked at her and let out a sad chuckle. "You see?" he began. "You can't really understand, Hermione. You say you felt normal tonight. Well, I didn't, not at all."

"But —" she tried to argue, but Ron raised a hand and she shut her mouth.

"I enjoyed it, yes. But normal? — no. I was there, surrounded by all those people, people that live less than a mile from us, Hermione, and no one of them knew that you almost died last November, or that I disappeared for months, that I had to fight the closest thing to a dark god, or all the horrible things we've had to endure this year. They can have dinner, and laugh, and enjoy their weekend with their families, and on Monday they will go to work without any other care. But for us is totally different. We — I can't forget, Hermione."

They both stood in silence for what seemed a long time. Hermione staring at him, open-mouthed and speechless, Ron just looking out of the window sadly. And then, suddenly, without moving at all, he began to talk.

"When Ørsya fought Sbalkal in their last duel, she realised that, even though he was considerably younger, he was much stronger than her. Anwar, who was much weaker than any of them, noticed this, too, and knowing that he wouldn't be able to help by joining the fight, simply put part of the vibration that gives us our powers in her, mixing it with hers and strengthening her own power. It worked, but even so, it was not enough. So Ørsya just hold onto Sbalkal's soul, trying to take it with her to the other side by sacrificing her own life. But due to how corrupt his soul was, when Sbalkal fought back, his soul broke, and when she died, Ørsya took with her that piece of soul, but also the vibration Anwar had lent her, leaving them both as diminished Masters of Essence, though in different ways." He made a pause and took a deep breath before continuing. "After what happened that day, when Sbalkal escaped by threatening Rose, I knew he would protect his soul against the effect the attached souls had on him. He couldn't avoid all the effects, of course, but I knew that he would be protected against me using Harry's connection to cause him pain. The only option I had left, was putting my own vibration into those souls. They didn't possess the vibration of a Master of Essence, so I wouldn't be strengthening their power, just getting power over them, power to counter Sbalkal's dominance over them. The drawback was that, by doing so, I lost the power over my body and the surrounding world. At the same time, Sbalkal used his power to fill me with sorrow and fear, like he had done before, and by doing so, both putting part of ourselves into the other's souls, we became entangled. But he got the upper hand, Hermione. He used Harry to make me feel bad, worse than I was already feeling. For a moment, I really believed that dying was the only solution, that maybe, when I had gone, he would leave you alone. For the first time in centuries, he had felt empathy towards you, thanks to our connection …" He made another pause, and then turned his head towards her once more, staring into her eyes. "I was ready to go, Hermione, but then … then something happened. I don't know what, or how, but I felt as if you were there, with me, talking to me, and —"

"I was," she said, interrupting him, and he frowned, confused. "There was something surrounding you, that was creating havoc and that destroyed The Burrow. No one could get close to you, but, suddenly, I knew could. I had to use a charm to prevent me from being thrown back, but I reached you … and touched you. And now that you say it, I had the feeling that we were connected in some way."

Ron's eyes lit up. "We were! I — I don't know how, but we were! If you touched me, maybe that was the reason. You know, I was thinking about all the times I made you cry, all the times I broke your heart, about how you'd be better off without me, and then I felt you."

"It was you who helped me get closer to you, then?"

"No — well, I'm not sure. I couldn't feel anything outside Sbalkal and me. I suppose we'll never know, but I think it was Sbalkal … I think that, in a way, he felt that I needed you, and unconsciously, let you get closer. Anyway," he continued, "you started talking, telling me that I always come back, that I made you cry because I was the one who could make you the happiest, and then I was able to pour all of myself into the attached souls, and all that love, all those happy memories hurt the corrupted souls, who, in turn, hurt him. The pain was so unbearable, Hermione …" he said, grimacing at the memory. "I was feeling it, too, through him, but I knew I had to keep pushing, for all of you. Finally, unable to resist, to stand that unbearable pain anymore, he broke his own soul in an attempt to get free from those souls. He could, because of all the murders he had committed. In a way, he created an horcrux. But it wasn't attached to anything physical, just to those freed souls, and when they departed, they took that piece of Sbalkal with them to the other side, just like it had happened seven hundred years ago, when Ørsya died. But this time it had been him who, willingly, had broken his soul, and, by doing so, he lost his power. But I had put my vibration into the attached souls, all of it, so, when they departed, it was destroyed … lost forever," he finished sadly.

"Oh, Ron…" was the only thing Hermione could mutter, astounded as she was.

Ron gave a step towards her and grabbed her hand, staring at her with adoration, his eyes bright and alive. "It was you, Hermione. In the end it was not just my power, or my abilities, my knowledge, or Pyret's knowledge. Those things helped, of course, but it was you, what I felt for you, and what you felt for me, what defeated him."

"Oh, Ron …" she moaned, tears welling up in her eyes once more. She felt a lump in her throat due to the intense emotion coursing her body. "It's — it's true, you know," she managed to say, and when he looked at him in confusion, she added, "You are the one who can make me the happiest. Always have been."

And for the first time since the loss of his powers, Ron took her in his arms, and kissed her, hard on the mouth. Hermione, caught by surprise, remained immobile for a few seconds before her brain started functioning again, and then she responded with equal intensity.

She didn't know for how long they kissed, there, next to the window, under the moonlight, both wanting to satiate their thirst for the other, to submerge in the love they shared, that love that had survived so much, and that, ultimately, had saved them.

Finally, breathless and flushed, they took their mouths from each other's, panting, and just stared into each other's eyes, their noses almost touching. Hermione could feel his breathing on her face, his scent filling her nostrils, his unique taste in her lips and tongue. Her heart was beating so fast she felt as if it could jump out of her chest. They had kissed, Ron had kissed her, and this time he looked as flushed as she was, as breathless, as dazzled, not like last time. This time she had been able to make him lose control, and that was simply invaluable.

"I love you, I love you, Ron, so much …"

"I love you too, Hermione," he responded, punctuating his words with one light kiss on her lips and another on the tip of her nose. He retreated a bit, so he could look properly into her eyes, and caressed her cheek lovingly. "I've been wanting to do this for days," he confessed.

"And why didn't you, then?" she asked. "I wanted it too, Ron."

"Because I was confused, Hermione, and felt — I don't know how I felt. Every time I looked at you, that I imagined kissing you, or touching you, I couldn't help but remember the pain you felt that night," he explained, and she knew he was referring to when they had almost made love. "And I never, ever want you to feel that way again. I wanted to be sure about this, for you to be sure. I don't know if I am sure yet, if things are all right, but — I just couldn't help it, I couldn't hold back."

"Ron, you know I don't want you to hold back. I love that you can't hold back where I'm concerned. You're right; I don't want to feel that pain again. But this is not the same. I want this to work, Ron, and for that, I need to feel you want me as much as I want you."

"I do, Hermione. But I don't feel like myself yet, you know? It's been just ten days, and I need to get accustomed to this, to feel things that I can't control, to — to act like a normal person."

"I know," she said, nodding. She put her hands on his face and caressed his incipient beard. "You've got to shave," she commented. "Or are you planning on growing a beard? I hope not," she added.

"I know," he said, closing his eyes and rubbing his face against her hands. "I know I should shave, but I'm dreading it, to be honest. When I was a Master, I just vanished the hair … But it's started to grow again." He sighed.

"Ron … what I was going to say before is that I know we should take this slowly. I think that we must be honest with each other. No more secrets like that potion, all right? If you feel something, if you're angry, or frustrated, or sad, you can tell me. And I'll do the same. Deal?"

He nodded. He took her left hand in his, and moved it from his cheek to his mouth. He put a light kiss on it that caused her to shiver.

"Ron …" she started to say.


"When I woke up you were looking out of the window, into the sky. What were you thinking about?"

Ron released her hand and turned to look at the window once more. "See the stars?" he asked, nodding upwards.

"Yes," she said, following his gaze.

"I've seen them, Hermione. I've been there. Not lots of times, but even if I wasn't there physically, I could see them. I studied them, hundreds, thousands of them. They're all alike, and yet different. When Harry found Sbalkal last time, he was ten thousand light-years away, Hermione. And it took me little more than a minute to reach him …" he let his voice fade, and Hermione just waited, wanting to know where he wanted to go with this.

"I won't see them, or any of those wonders ever again, Hermione. As a normal wizard, there's no way to go there, to travel so far. There was — is — a fascinating world out there, out of this planet. I got a glimpse of it, but I will never get another. Just imagine the first time we saw Hogwarts. Imagine that, after a week there, someone told you you had to leave and wouldn't see it ever again."

"It would have been horrible," Hermione commented.

"It is," he said. "And it is not just about the Universe. Even here, I could find wonders looking at a simple wall, just by perceiving its Essence vibrate … That is what I miss the most, the way Essence talked to me." He turned his head and looked at her, and she was shocked to find that his eyes were wet. "When I realised I had to become a Master of Essence, and what that implied, I didn't want it. Even after all those years, when I came back, I wanted to be normal again, so I could be with you — with all of you. But when I lost it …" he shook his head. "I didn't know how accustomed I had got to my powers, to the awareness of the Masters. I didn't know I'd miss it so much." He swallowed loudly, and brushed his eyes with his hands. "When I was a Master I wanted to be normal so I could be with you, and now I am normal I want to still be a Master. I'm confused, Hermione, though I'm getting better. I'm getting accustomed to be myself once more, but it's — it's hard."

"Of course it is, Ron," she said, awed by all the things Ron was saying, by the way he was opening up to her. And she knew he wasn't doing it just for her, but for himself, too, that he, finally, needed to talk to someone.

"I lost my powers, Hermione," he continued, "and now I can't even go to that haven, where Anwar is buried. That place will keep existing, but no one will be able to get in there, ever again. When I met him, part of him hated him, for the things he was saying, for the way he acted towards me, but he was just doing what he had to, and during those months I grew fond of him. He resisted for so many years, waiting for another Master to train, looking for hope in the war against Sbalkal. He deserves more than to be buried where no one can visit him and pay him their respects. Only Antoine, Rhoda and I knew him, and one day, when we die, no one will remember him, or Pyret, or any of them," he finished, his eyes shimmering with tears once more.

"Oh, Ron …" Hermione said. She was dying to hug him tightly, but knew she had to let him finish, to take it all out.

"Pyret left his brain and his Archway. The brain was destroyed by Sbalkal, and I hid the Archway so the kids wouldn't get near it. And now it's there, at The Burrow, but no one can see it, or touch it again, because I moved it in the seventh dimension. It is lost, for all purposes. Even Pyret's memories and knowledge are vanishing, because when he implanted himself in me, he held onto my vibration, and now it's lost."

He stared directly into her eyes, which, she realised, were wet as well.

"How am I gonna face them in the afterlife, Hermione? Any of them? They kept the order alive for four thousand years. Four thousand years of tradition and knowledge, and I put an end to it all. I — I destroyed the Masters of Essence. When Sbalkal and I die, no one will remember anything about them, or about Essence itself. No one will know it exists."

"Then make sure it is remembered; that they are remembered," Hermione suggested impulsively. But as soon as she had said it, she realised that it was, actually, a good idea.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Write it down, Ron. Write about Essence; about the Masters, all of them. You say you get bored, that you don't know what to do. Write down everything you know, make sure it never gets forgotten."

Ron stared at her for a while, thoughtful, but then shook his head. "It's not a bad idea, Hermione, but I — you know I'm not good at writing, or explaining things …"

"You weren't," she corrected. "You're been doing a fine job right now. And besides, that's the thing I'm really good at, am I not?" she added. "I can help you, Ron, if you let me."

"You would?" he asked, looking at her in awe. "Really?"

"Really. We would make a good team, I think: you just talk, and I'll make questions and write it. What do you think?"

He blinked a few times, his eyes fixed on her, and then his face broke into a grin. "I think you're brilliant, Hermione. Really."

"Let's go, then," she said, grabbing his arm.

"What — now?"

"Yes, now. You've said you're forgetting things, so I think we should start as soon as possible. Besides, you drank that potion and I don't feel sleepy anymore. Let's go down to the study."

"OK," he nodded.

Smiling, she dragged him downstairs, to the study. She gathered parchment, ink and an enchanted quill and sat down.

"Well, let's start," she said, looking up at him, expectant.

"I don't know where to start," he replied.

"Essence, Ron. Tell me the first thing that pops into your mind."

Ron thought about it for a moment, and then said, "Well, it's the primary substance of the universe, of which everything is made. It's got four properties — five if you count quantity, which derives from density — and it obeys just four fundamental laws, the Fundamental Laws of Essence."

"That's a good start," she said, nodding. "Those properties; those laws, tell me about them, Ron." She pointed her wand at the quill, and it wrote, quickly:


The Primary Substance of the Universe

Ron started to talk, and Hermione, channelling her thoughts into the quill, began to write.

They worked for hours and hours, Ron talking and Hermione writing and asking questions. Once he had started, it seemed to be easier for Ron to continue. He talked about Essence first, then about Magic and the other fundamental forces. After that he changed the subject to that of the Masters, and Hermione wrote about them all: Mara, the discoverer of their powers; Thyros, her apprentice; Kuros and Hiya, the first true Masters; Pyret, the greatest of them all; Ørsya and Hi-Shu, his apprentices; Anwar, Ørsya's pupil; and finally Ron himself. And he didn't forget about the evil ones, Kalkras and Sbalkal.

It was only when, around six o'clock in the morning the Sensory Charm alerted them about Rose waking up that they stopped. By then, Hermione had before her more than twelve foot of parchment written in her tiny, tidy handwriting.

She stretched her limbs on the chair and got to her feet. "I'll get her," she told Ron. "Can you prepare tea meanwhile?"

Ron nodded. "Yeah."

So she went up while Ron went to the kitchen. When she walked into the room, Rose was starting to cry. She approached the cot and, smiling, took her daughter into her arms.

"Ssssh, sweetheart. Mummy's here, all right?" she whispered to her. She lowered the left strap of her nightdress and uncovered a breast. When she put Rose to it, she began to suck almost immediately. She let her get comfortable and then went back downstairs, to the living room, and sat down on the couch. Feeling a bit cold, she used her wand to lit up a fire. A few minutes later, Ron came from the kitchen, carrying a tray with two steaming cups of tea, and put it on the table. He passed Hermione her cup and sat down beside her, watching Rose suckle.

"How do you feel?" Hermione asked him after a while.

"Good," he said, and smiled. "For the first time in a long time, I feel good, Hermione. Talking about all that, seeing it written … It made me feel useful, it — it gave me some peace of mind, I think." He looked at her with something resembling adoration. "Thank you, Hermione. For helping me, for making me do this. You know what? I really wish you had met Anwar. You would have loved talking to him, I think."

"I'm sure," she said. Rose released her breast, and Hermione put her over her shoulder and patter her on the back. The child burped. Hermione then lowered her other strap, uncovering her right breast, and put Rose to it. She looked back at Ron. "And you haven't got to thank me, Ron. I enjoyed it. I've learned lots of things, you know."

"I suppose you did," he commented, smiling at her. They both finished their tea in silence, while Rose kept suckling, and then Ron took the tray back to the kitchen. Hermione heard the water running, and, turning her head, saw Ron washing the kettle and the cups. When he came back, Rose was finishing.

"Can you hold her while I clean myself?"

"Yeah," he said, and took her in his arms. Afterwards, Hermione changed her and put her back to sleep. It was just six and a half in the morning, after all. Ron accompanied Hermione when she went up to put her on the cot, and then they watched her for a few minutes, until Hermione yawned.

"You're tired," Ron stated. "You should go to bed."

"Yes, I am," she nodded. "What about you?"

"I drank the potion."

"Oh, yes," she said, letting her disappointment show in her tone.

He must have noticed it, because he stared into her eyes and said, "But, if you don't mind, I'd love to lie with you, while you sleep. I can think about the next things to write about. My mind is swarming with ideas and stuff, and I'd love to put order in them."

"Of course I don't, mind, Ron," she said, happy. "I'd love it."

And so, five minutes later, they were on their bed, Ron leaning against the headboard, and Hermione snuggled against him, her left arm over his belly, relishing in the warm of his lean body. She sighed contentedly.

"I missed this," she confessed, her voice sleepy.

"Me too," he said, caressing her hair. "Me too, Hermione."

When she woke up, there was daylight entering the room, and she saw that she was alone in bed. She brushed her eyes and sat up, looking around, but Ron was nowhere to be seen.

"Ron …?" she asked, but there was no response. Yawning, she got out of the bed and put on her dressing gown, throwing a glance at the clock: half past twelve. She exited the room and saw that the door of Rose's room was opened. She peered inside, and found that she wasn't there, either. She kept walking and when she reached the stairs she heard Ron's voice.

"Rosie, that's Daddy's hair, and you should never pull on it," he was saying. He was sitting on the couch, with Rose on his arms, holding her so they were face to face. She was smiling, with a lock of his hair in her tiny hand. He heard her approaching, turned his head towards her and smiled. "Look, sweetheart, Mummy's up."

"Good morning," she said. "Or should I say afternoon?"

"You were tired," said Ron. "Did you sleep well?"

"Better than in a long time," she answered, grinning at him.

"Glad to hear it."

"Did you feed Rose?"

"I did. She woke up at ten. I took milk from the fridge, but you're going to have to extract more, because I finished it."

"All right. There's at least one hour until she is hungry again, I can extract some." She went to the kitchen and did exactly that. Once she had finished, she started to prepare tea. "Ron, do you want tea?" she asked in a loud voice.

"I've already had a cup earlier!" he answered.

She took her cup to the living room, and then Summoned the rolls of parchment on which Ron and she had been working during the night. She classified what they had written by subject and started to reread it, sometimes questioning Ron when she wasn't sure about something or thought that it was not well explained.

She stopped revising just to breastfeed Rose, while Ron prepared them something to eat. After lunch, and while Rose slept, they just sat down in the living room again. Outside, the weather had changed. It was colder and darker, and had started to rain. Ron looked out of the window, shivered, and then lit the fire.

Hermione took his hand in hers and looked at him. "Do you want to keep working?"

Ron looked at her and shrugged. "We could, but — well, it feels nice, just being here with you."

"Yes, it does," she said, nodding. They stared into each other's eyes, the intensity in Ron's gaze almost making her squirm on the couch. And then, slowly, he leaned towards her. When his face was just a few inches from hers he stopped moving, as if doubting himself. Hermione could feel her entire body tingle with anticipation; she really, really, wanted him to kiss her again, to feel his mouth against her, to taste him —

Her train of thought was interrupted when he closed those few inches and he kissed her, hesitantly at first, as if he were exploring, or testing her reaction. But Hermione was tired of doubts, tired or waiting. She knew exactly what she wanted, and she wanted it right now.

Taking her left hand from his, she flung her arms around his neck and, pressing herself to him, she started to snog him with all the passion she could muster, with all her want, all her love, almost desperately.

Caught by surprise, Ron moaned into her mouth, and that sound sent a strong current throughout her body. She could feel her nipples hardening, and her knickers getting wet. Merlin, how much she wanted him, after all that time, after everything they had gone through! Maybe he would never be completely the same again, maybe he would always miss what being a Master of Essence meant, but he had sacrificed himself not only because it was his duty, but for love. Their love, combined, had defeated Sbalkal, and she would make sure that he would never lack love in his life, because all of hers was his, and she planned to show him every minute of every hour of every day, for the rest of their lives.

She pressed her body even closer against his, moaning as well. As a response, Ron put his arms around her waist, his hands moving up and down her back, leaving goose bumps on their wake. Wanting to feel even closer to him, she straddled his legs and began to grind her groin onto his. She was getting wetter and wetter by the second, and feeling his cock hard under her only made it better. A little annoying part of her mind was telling her that maybe this was too soon, that they were still getting accustomed to being together, to their new situation, but she ignored it. This was not the time for thinking or rationality. The only thing that mattered was feeling.

She began to move her hips harder against him, wanting to feel all of him. She parted from his mouth to take some needed air, and immediately move to his neck, covering it with little bites and kisses, before sucking hard, eliciting a pleasure groan from him. He could feel him shaking under her, and, for a moment, she thought that maybe he was about to burst. After all, he had spent many years without sex, hadn't he? And that thought, the idea that she could make him lose control like this, even if she didn't get any physical satisfaction out of it, made her feel exhilarated, utterly happy.

"H-Hermione …" he moaned, his hands now still on her waist, grabbing her and almost preventing her from moving, from getting the friction she desperately needed.

"Oh, Ron …" she moaned, and took his earlobe into her mouth.

"Her — Hermione, p-please …"

"Yes, Ron, yes, I want it too, so much …"

"No, Hermione, I — STOP!" he shouted, and pushed her back, creating some space between them.

"Ron …?" she asked, confused and still more than a bit dazzled. "What — what's wrong?" He was shaking, and she felt a cold feeling fill her at the sight.

"I — I can't," he stuttered, looking down, his ears turning pink.

"What do you mean, you can't?"

"You almost made me lose control, Hermione. It felt good, but — but it was too much."

She moved off his lap and sat down on the couch next to him.

"But I want it to be too much, Ron. I want you to lose control, like before, to feel that you — that you want me as much as I want you."

"And I do," he said, still trembling. "But I'm not accustomed to this, Hermione, to feel this way, to lose control. During all this time I always was in control of my body, and now, feeling about to snap just like this …" he shook his head. "It's too much."

"Oh," she said. She could understand what he was saying, but it was terribly disappointing. Merlin, she really, really wanted him …

"I'm sorry," he said sheepishly, seeing the frustration etched upon her face.

"You haven't got to be sorry, Ron," she told him, grabbing his right hand in hers and squeezing it reassuringly and affectionately. "If you're not ready, I can wait."

"But I don't want you to wait," he protested, angry with himself. "And I don't, either. I want you, Hermione. Fuck, every time you take off your clothes, I've got to look elsewhere, or think about anything not remotely related to you to avoid jumping at you." He shook his head. "I want it to be good for you, and I — I don't know if I can do it. I mean, I can't make you cum with a thought like last time —"

"I don't want that!" she said, interrupting him. "That was the reason we knew it was over, wasn't it? I want you to lose control, Ron. And, in case you don't remember, you've never had a problem making it good for me."

"Yeah, before," he pointed out. Hermione was starting to hate that word, really hate it. She let out a deep sigh.

"Ron, if you are not ready, and want to wait, then we wait. But if you fear that you'll disappoint me, well, I'm an adult woman, and I can make it feel good for me, you know," she told him, and Ron looked at her, open-mouthed. "Besides, there are lots of ways in which you can, well — help me," she added huskily.

"Fuck, Hermione," he groaned.

"I'm going to snog you again, Ron, right now, and then I'm going to take off my clothes, and I don't want you to worry about me, because I want this. I only want you to stop if you're not comfortable, OK? Remember our deal."

Ron stared at her, shocked, and then gulped and nodded.

She continued to stare at him for a few moments, their gazes locked, and then she straddled him once more and planted her mouth on his. Immediately, Ron's hands went to her back, resuming their previous up and down movement. She put her hands on his shoulders for support, and drove her tongue into his mouth. When it founds his, they both let out a muffled moan. Ron's hands went down, until he was cupping her bum, and then pressed her against him, against his hard cock. She moaned again, and began to grind against him once more. Her hands moved to his head and caressed his hair, entangling her fingers in his red strands, loving how it felt, how all of him felt.

After a few minutes of frantic kissing, Hermione put her hands on his chest and pushed, parting a bit from him. They stared into each other's eyes, both of them panting, and then she took off her dressing gown. She threw it onto the carpet, straddling him only in her nightdress and soaked knickers.

"You're so beautiful," he said, eyeing her adoringly. She saw his eyes travel from her face down to her chest. Her nipples were perfectly visible, and feeling his hungry gaze on them only turned her on more. He moved his hands from her arse to her bare thighs. Her night dress had ridden up a bit, barely covering her underwear, and he began to caress her softly, the feeling of his hands on her skin sending jolts of pleasure through her body.

She watched him stare at her for a bit, and then grabbed the bottom of her nightdress and took it off.

"Fuck," she heard him swear. "Hermione …"

"Touch me, Ron," she begged, and, taking his hands in hers, put them on her breasts, moaning at the contact.

"Bloody hell, Hermione, they — they feel so good, so soft, so — so …"

"Touch them, Ron, please."

And Ron began to caress and knead her breasts, a bit tentatively at first, but, seeing as she liked it, he started to squeeze them, becoming a little rougher.

"Yes, just like that," she moaned, and began to grind onto him once more. While he kept touching her breasts, she leaned towards him and kissed him once more, moaning into his mouth. The feeling of his cock against her sex, of his hands on her breasts and his mouth sliding against hers was driving her mad with desire. She wanted him, all of him, inside her, and soon.

And in that moment, Ron broke their kiss and, pushing her a bit, lowered his head and began to suck on her nipples, making her throw her head backwards and let out a loud moan of pleasure.

"Oh, Ron, yes … yes, suck them …" she begged, putting her hands on his head to press him against her chest.

"Fuck, Hermione, love your tits … love you …"

"Ron, Ron … I love you too, so much, so much," she chanted, caressing his hair as he sucked on her. He switched breasts, using his hand on the one he was not sucking, while his other hand groped her arse, helping her grind against him.

After a while of this treatment, she stopped him and kissed him again, her hands roaming his chest. Wanting to feel his naked skin against hers, he grabbed the hem of his pyjama top and raised it to take it off. Once he was bare-chested, she lowered her mouth and began to kiss his freckled chest while her hands caressed his sides. After a bit, unable to wait anymore, she put her hand between them and finally cupped his cock though his pyjama bottoms.

"Fuck, Hermione!" he shouted, almost jumping on the couch.

"I want you, Ron," she said boldly.

"Hermione …"

She got off him and, quickly, lowered her knickers down her legs, baring herself completely. His eyes went instinctively to her sex, and she, turned on by the intensity of his gaze, parted her thighs a bit to give him a better view.

"Bloody hell … You — you're so wet, Hermione."

"For you," she said huskily. "For you, Ron."

She knelt before him and, holding his gaze, grabbed his trousers. Slightly trembling, he lifted his arse from the couch, and she yanked his trousers and underpants down his long legs in one swift motion, releasing his cock, which stood proudly. Throwing his clothes to the side, she looked at his cock with a look she hoped conveyed the message she wanted to transmit: that he was going to be shagged senseless.

She took him in her hand, marvelling at his firmness and softness, and began to stroke him gently, teasingly. He was looking at her reverently, still shaking, excited and yet nervous.

"Relax, Ron," she said softly. "Do you like this?" she asked, stroking him a bit faster.

"F-fuck, yes," he nodded quickly, gulping.

"I like it, too," she said, smiling seductively at him. Without breaking eye contact, she got up and straddled him again, slowly, giving him time to get accustomed to the sensation. She caressed his face and then put her hands on his shoulders for support, positioned herself, and began to move her hips slowly, her wet sex sliding over his cock.

Ron's expression was now a mixture of devotion, arousal and fear, which made her think of their first time.

"Are you all right?" she asked him, moving against him. His cock was rubbing against her clit, and she was having trouble keeping her eyes open.

"Y-yeah, I — I think so," he answered in a trembling voice. "I — I just —"

"Relax," she told him. "You feel so good, Ron, and I really, really want you inside me …"

But Ron was not relaxing at all, his body had become almost completely stiff … except for his cock, which, she realised, was getting softer. Surprised, she feigned that she hadn't noticed it at all, and began to rub herself harder against him, trying to increase his arousal, to make him completely hard once more, but it did not work and, after a minute, Ron tore his gaze away from her, a pained expression on his face, and shook his head.

"Stop, please."

Hermione stopped moving at once, and just sat down on his knees, breaking contact with his cock. She looked down and saw that, while it hadn't softened completely, it wasn't hard anymore.

"Don't worry," she told him, caressing his face, but she couldn't mask her disappointment, and he noticed it.

"I'm a fucking failure," he moaned. "Unemployed, afraid of everything and, to top it all, cannot even keep it hard. Fuck!" he shouted angrily.

"Ron, these things happen. I'm sure it is just that you're nervous."

"I cannot help it," he said, putting his hands on her thighs. "Fuck, I want you so much, and not being able to — to —"

"Ron …"

"When I was a Master I could control it completely. That night here, I wanted it to be hard and it was hard, and now …"

Hermione stared at him thoughtfully. "Maybe that's the problem," she said. "During all these years, did you — did you have erections?"

He looked into her eyes, and then shook his head. "No. There was no purpose in having them, wasn't it? That night we spent together was the first time in twenty-four years."

"So you — you didn't masturbate?"

"What for?" he asked, "I was a Master of Essence, Hermione. Eating, breathing, drinking, sleeping, cumming … I didn't need any of those things."

"You can't control your body anymore, Ron. Not this, at least. It's supposed to be a natural reaction, instinctive."

"I know."

"Then stop thinking at all and just feel. Don't worry about me, you've done that more than enough. Think just about you. Be a bit selfish, Ron."

"But —" he began to protest. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to prove that there isn't a problem at all with you," she said, and then slid down his lap to the floor. She began to kiss his thighs, slowly and sensually, and after a few kisses, she forced him to spread his legs and started touching his cock and kneading his sac. She felt his member twitch a bit, and moved her mouth to kiss his balls. Ron, who was staring at her almost without blinking, threw his head back and moaned.

"Fuck, Hermione …!"

"Does it feel good?" she asked, giving him a few licks, while her hands stroked his shaft, which was now hardening again.

"Fuck, yes …"

"Enjoy it, Ron. Don't think, just feel."

She resumed her task, stroking his cock while she kissed his balls, even taking them into her mouth. Once he was completely hard again, his hips moving involuntarily, she took her hand off him and engulfed him in her mouth, drawing a hiss of pleasure from him.

"Hermione, fuck!" he moaned, putting his hands on her head. She began to suck, slowly at first, wanting for both of them to savour it. She was relishing in having that kind of power upon him once more, seeing how he could barely control his hips, how his hands grabbed fistfuls of her hair.

"Hermione, you don't — you don't have to — to do this …"

"But I want to, Ron," she replied, before taking him in once more and started sucking harder.

"Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck …" he chanted, his body trembling. She couldn't stop watching his face, he seemed unable to decide whether to close his eyes to enhance the feeling of watching her suck his cock.

She increased her tempo, her hands kneading his balls and thighs, and soon she felt him twitch in her mouth, and knew he was about to come. Ron took his hands off her head and put them on the couch, clenching his fists tightly. His entire body was rigid, he had his eyes tightly shut and his expression was between pain and extreme pleasure.

"Her — Hermione …"

She took his cock out of her mouth and put her hand around it to stroke him. "Do you want me to stop?" she asked him, a bit concerned.

"I — I think so …" he started to say. "But — NO!" he shouted suddenly, opening his eyes. "No, please, don't stop, just don't stop …"

Feeling euphoric all of a sudden, she took him almost completely in her mouth in one go, possessed by a sudden lust, by the overwhelming desire to make him lose control completely. She sucked hard, her head bobbing on his lap as quickly as possible, and, in less than a minute, he put his hands on her head, holding onto her hair, and, shoving himself a bit further into her mouth, exploded with a loud, guttural roar of intense pleasure, and Hermione was suddenly flooded by a big load of Ron's semen.

Wanting to prolong his pleasure, she kept sucking, swallowing all of it, until he finally stopped trashing and spurting. She gave him a long lick and released him, grinning at him.

"Bloody fuck, Hermione, bloody fucking fuck …" he muttered, dazzled, looking at her adoringly.

"Language, Ron," she scolded him in a mocking tone, beaming at him. She felt almost ecstatic, having reduced him to a boneless, quivering mass of limbs. "I hope you liked it," she added, extremely pleased with herself.

"Liked it? Fucking hell, remembering it and feeling it are two completely different things, love."

"It wasn't that bad, losing control, then?"

"You can say that," he nodded, grinning dreamily at her. "Not bad at all." He took a deep breath, and then grabbed her by her arms and put her back on his lap before kissing her passionately, and she put her arms around his neck, responding with equal intensity.

"Let's go to bed, Ron," she said in a low, husky voice.

"OK," he nodded, still looking at her with adoration. They both got up and, not bothering to grab their clothes, just their wands, they hurried up the stairs and into their bedroom. Once there, they fell onto the bed, embracing and kissing.

They stopped after a few minutes, both in need of air, and lay on the bed face to face.

"I don't know what I did to deserve you, Hermione. All this has been very difficult for me, but you made it bearable, and today, rather amazing."

Hermione propped herself on one elbow and stared at him intensely, her gaze conveying all the love she felt for him. "Just one thing," she said.

"What?" he asked, confused.

"You did just one thing," she clarified. "The only thing that can be done to earn my undying love."

"Which is?" he asked, curiosity etched upon his smiling face.

"Being Ronald Bilius Weasley."

Ron just stared at her, unable to say anything, and a moment later he was upon her, kissing her with all his soul, that soul that may not had the power of the Masters of Essence anymore, but that was full of love, a love that had saved them all.

His hands began to roam over her naked body, awakening her desire. She opened her legs invitingly, wanting to feel his touch there, and he didn't disappoint her. Almost reverently, she caressed her wet sex, sliding his fingers up and down her slit, until they focused on her aching clit. And when he began to rub her there, she couldn't help but rock her hips, seeking more friction.

"Oh, Ron, yes, yes … touch me there, please, I need you so badly …"

"Fuck, I need you, too," he answered, covering her face, neck and breasts with kisses. He began to rub her a bit harder, increasing her pleasure. She opened her legs wider and he straddled her right one. She could feel his hardening cock against her thigh, enhancing the feeling, and when it was completely hard again, she knew she couldn't wait anymore, even if what he was doing was fantastic and would give her a good orgasm. She needed more than that, more than the physical pleasure; she needed to be joined with him, in the most intimately way possible for human beings.

"Ron, inside me," she demanded, panting.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"I haven't been surer of anything in my life," she replied. "Please, fuck me."

Immediately, Ron moved his hand from her sex and positioned himself between her legs. Hermione watched him hover over her, watched the way his eyes bore into hers, the way his throat moved as he gulped, watched his ruffled hair and his wet, delicious lips, begging to be kissed …

"Make love to me, Ron. Show me how much you love me, how much you want me," she said, lifting her hands to caress his face.

"Hermione, I don't know if I — if I can make you feel as good as before …"

"We can take care of that afterwards, right now I want to feel you inside me."

She felt him rest his weight on her, his hard cock against her soaked entrance, and put her legs around his bum, forcing him to enter her.

"Oh, God, Ron …!"

"Bloody fuck, Hermione, you feel so fucking good, so tight …"

"Move, Ron. I want to feel you moving, I want to feel you fucking me, loving me …"

Ron let out a groan and kissed her, hard. And then lifted his hips and thrust into her, sheathing himself completely in her warm cunt. Jolts of pleasure ran through her body, making every nerve feel alive.

He gave another thrust, and another, and another, each time increasing his rhythm, his speed. He was panting into her mouth, and soon they had to stop kissing, both of them moaning in pleasure.

"Ron … Ron … yes, like that, you feel so good, I missed you, missed this …"

"Fuck, Hermione, you feel good, so hot and tight and — fuck!"

Hermione arched her back, wanting to feel even more, her hands moving to his arse to push him harder against her. Ron, meanwhile, buried his head in her neck, one hand supporting him, the other squeezing her breasts. She could feel his breathing quickening, and knew that he was getting close.

"Don't hold back, Ron, I want all you can give. Don't stop, it feels so, so good."

"Fuck, Hermione, I'm — I'm almost there, this is too much, you feel so bloody good, so —"

"Let it go, Ron, I'm almost there, too. Come inside me, love …"

Grunting, Ron began to move faster and harder, getting her closer to the edge, too, and then, with a loud groan and several forceful thrusts, he came in her, flooding her with his seed.

"Fuuuuuuuck, Hermioneeeee … I'm — Fuuuck!"

"Yes, Ron, yes," she moaned, thrusting her hips to get more friction, she was so close herself, and feeling Ron come undone inside her was such a turn on. "Please, keep going, just a bit more, a bit more …" she pleaded desperately.

Ron tried to comply, although he had finished and his cock was starting to soften. He gave her a few more thrusts, and then her orgasm started. She screamed Ron's name, and he, unable to move anymore, fell upon her, depriving her of the friction she desperately needed, causing her orgasm to ebb away much sooner than she wanted.

"Fuck, Hermione …" he whispered against her neck, panting. After a moment, he managed to move off her and looked at her. "Was it good for you?" he asked, a bit worried.

"It was," she answered. But then, remembering that they had made a deal, added, "It ended too soon, though. I needed just a bit more."

"Oh …" he said, looking sad. "Sorry, love. I just couldn't keep going anymore."

"It's all right, Ron," she said, hugging him. "It was wonderful. How was it for you?"

"Bloody amazing, Hermione."

"Good," she said, resting her head on his sweaty chest. "That's what I wanted."

"But I want you to feel good, too."

"It was good, Ron."

"Amazing, then."

"Well …" she said, and moved her hand to grab his soft cock. "How long will it take for you to be able to go again?"

"Merlin's pants, woman, I don't know. You made me cum twice in half an hour, and I'm fifty!" he joked.

"Poor old man," she said in mocking pity, turning her head to look at him. "Should I take a younger lover?"

"Maybe," he said, grinning. He had his eyes closed, enjoying the afterglow. "I'll have to find a job and earn money so you can spend time with him, won't I?"

"Yes," she nodded. "You work and earn money, so I can enjoy lots of sex with my lovers."

He opened one eye and looked at her, raising one eyebrow. "So it's 'lovers' now? in plural?"

"You know I am an overachiever," she said, and laughed.

"That I know," he replied, laughing as well.

They fell in a comfortable silence, enjoying their mutual company. After a while, Ron spoke, this time in a serious tone.

"I've really got to find a job, though," he commented.

"There's no hurry, Ron."

"But I need to feel useful again, Hermione. Working on those —- memories, or whatever you want to call them is good, but I can't live off that."

"Well, what would you like to do?"

"I don't know," he answered. "I always wanted to be an Auror, you know. Being a Quidditch player would have been good, too, but I haven't played seriously in a long time, and, besides, it's lost a bit of its appeal. So I don't know. I don't know what else I'm good at, to be honest."

Hermione listened to him, thinking about it for a while, and then said, "You told me you altered the Sleepless Potion."


"Ron, you always were a disaster at potions, and you improved a three-hundred-old recipe."

"Well, yeah, but it's not that I'm better at potions. I simply knew what to do."

She moved off his chest and leaned on one elbow to look at him. "You know lots of things, Ron. There are lots of information about Magic, written on those parchments. I'm sure that, if you concentrate, you can improve other stuff — spells, charms ... For instance, you're always complaining about Apparition. Isn't there a way to improve that?"

"Just with Magic?" he asked, and she nodded. His expression became thoughtful. "I don't know. Maybe."

"Then there you are!" she said, excited. "I'm sure in the Department of Mysteries they would love to hear all the things you know, and investigate them."

"Are you suggesting that I apply to work there?"

"Yes!" she said. "Even if you're not an Auror, you would work in the same place as me and Harry, and — and I think you would like it, Ron. That could be your legacy as a Master of Essence, even if you aren't one anymore."

Ron seemed to thought about it for a while.

"You sure they would accept me?"

"They would be a bunch of idiots if they didn't, Ron. You know things no one else know, except Sbalkal, and I doubt anyone asks him. What do you think?"

Ron became thoughtful again, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. After a bit, he looked at her and asked, "would you still help me? To write it all down?"

"Of course I will. You can count on me, love. Always."

He smiled at her, and she was glad that, after everything he had gone through, there was some hope in his face, some excitation. "It could work," he said, nodding. "I loved that curiosity, Hermione, and I would love to fulfil it. This — this may be a brilliant idea."

"That's what I think!" she said, excited for him.

"The Department of Mysteries …" he muttered. "Where it all started for me. It's almost fateful, isn't it?"

"It is, in a way," Hermione nodded.

Ron looked at her intensely, his eyes bright with love, but also with desire.

"It is no wonder that even as a Master of Essence I couldn't stop being in love with you, Hermione."

"Oh, Ron …" she moaned, and threw herself at him, kissing him passionately. Ron hugged her tightly against him, responding to the kiss and putting his tongue in her mouth. His hands slid down her back to her naked arse, and he gave her a squeeze.

"Mmmh, I missed touching your sexy arse, Hermione …" he moaned.

"And I missed your big hands grabbing it," she replied sensually. "Are you ready again? You still owe me."

"Well, I still need some time to recover, but …" he started, and then, suddenly, pushed her so she was back on the bed and he was hovering over her. He sucked on her breasts, alternating on both her nipples, before starting a trail of kisses down her body. Whenl he reached her navel, knowing what he wanted to do and wanting him to do it, she spreaded her legs. Ron settled between them, and put a few kisses on the inside of her thighs, teasing her and making her moan.

"Ron, please …" she begged.

"Please what?"

"Just do it."

"Do what?"

"Lick me!" she demanded. "I want your mouth on me, your tongue inside my — my —"


"Cunt!" she yelled, blushing.

"As you wish," he said, grinning, and buried his head between her thighs, licking her sex from bottom to top and down again. She could feel his tongue entering her, driving her crazy with pleasure.

"Oh, Ron, yesss … don't stop …"

"Fuck, Hermione, your cunt tastes deliciously …"

"Shut up and get to it!" she demanded, clutching at his hair and pressing him against her sex. As a response, he moved to her clit and began to suck on it, increasing her arousal and her need to come. But although this felt too good, she didn't want to finish this way …

Pushing him off her, she knelt on the bed, surprising him, who looked at her confused.

"Hermione, what —?"

Instead of answering, she just made her lie on his back, and then straddled him, gladly noticing that he was almost completely hard again. Putting her hands on his chest for leverage, she began to rub against him wantonly, letting him feel how wet she was. He put his hands on her breasts once more, and began kneading them, arousing her even further.

"Ron …"

"Ride me, Hermione. I want to be inside you, feel you around me, over, and over, and over again."

Moaning at his words, Hermione positioner her sex above him and then impaled herself of him, making the two of them groan in pleasure. She didn't move for a while, savouring the feeling of having him inside her, and then, slowly, began to rock her hips, sliding up and down on him. As the pleasure both of them were feeling increased, she started moving quicker and quicker, her moans becoming louder.

"Fuck, Hermione, yes … keep going, I want to see you cum all over me."

"Oh, Ron, yes, I'm — I'm so close …"

She could feel it coming, and began slamming against him even more forcefully. She knew this was going to be a big one, exactly what she needed!

"Ron, Ron, Ron, I'm — I'm —"

"Yes, Hermione, yes, let it go, let it go!" he encouraged her, thrusting upwards, his hands still caressing her breasts, his thumbs on her nipples. Hermione closed her eyes, her head bent backwards, and, suddenly, she let out a loud moan, indescribable pleasure filling her body and causing him to shake violently, barely conscious that Ron was still thrusting to prolong her orgasm.

"Oh, Merlin, Ron!" she moaned, exhausted, letting her body fall on top of his. But he wasn't done, and so rolled them around so he was on top once more, and, his eyes fixed on hers, began to thrust hard and fast into her, seeking his own release.

"Fuck, Hermione, so good …"

"Ron, oh, Ron …"

"Hermione, I'm cumming!" he yelled, and, with a few hard thrusts, she felt him empty himself inside her.

Panting, he put his head on her shoulder and they embraced, still joined.

"Merlin, Ron …" she moaned into his ear.

"Fuck, Hermione, I love you …" he replied, lifting his head and giving her a long kiss. He rolled off her, and she, already missing his warmth, snuggled against him, sighing contentedly.

They lay there for a while, enjoying the afterglow of their lovemaking, until the Sensory charm told them Rose had woken up.

"Mmmh," she moaned. "I don't want to get up."

"I'll go," he said. He got out of bed, took an old shirt from the wardrobe and exited the room. Feeling a bit cold, she Summoned another one of Ron's that reached her mid-thigh. She had just put it on when Ron walked back in, Rose in his arms.

"Look who I've got here," he said, smiling. Rose let out a little laugh of joy upon seeing Hermione, and she smiled at her daughter. "Hey, sweetheart. How's my little Rose?"

"I thought that we could lie for a bit, with her between us," Ron said. "Is that OK?"

"Of course it is, Ron."

He got back on the bed and lay on his side, putting Rose beside him, between them. Hermione looked at her, and then at Ron, and smiled. He moved his right hand and clutched her left one.

"I love you both, you know," he said.

"I know. I love you both, too," she replied, and closed her eyes, blissfully tired.

— — o — —

She woke up a bit later. Something had disturbed her. She listened, confused, and heard someone saying 'hello?' downstairs. Recognising Harry's voice, she was going to sit up, but stopped dead when she realised what she had in front of her eyes.

Ron, for the first time in years, was sleeping peacefully, with Rose, also asleep, snuggling against him. She realised Ron and she were still holding hands, and was overwhelmed by a love so intense that she thought her heart would leap out of her chest. This was the image to which she wanted to wake up for the rest of her life. This was her family, the people whom she loved the most in the world. After so much heartache, after so many losses, they were together at last. She knew that today was just the first step of many, that what had happened would always be there, like a shadow, but they would take things as they came, and face each trouble, each issue, as it presented.

Carefully, she took her hand from Ron's, who moved a bit, and then exited the room. She reached the top of the stairs and looked down. Harry was there, a bit shocked, and looked up when he saw herd her steps.

"Hermione! I Floo called you three times, because you still haven't told me whether you're going to come tomorrow or not; But as no one answered, I decided to visit, see if anything had happened."

"We're all right, Harry. Nothing — nothing happened."

Harry raised an eyebrow at her, taking in her attire, and the turned his head to look at the scattered clothes in front of the fireplace. "Nothing?" he asked, and she felt herself blush. "It doesn't look like 'nothing' to me," he commented, smirking.

"Hermione?" she heard Ron ask. She looked towards the bedroom and saw him there, a still asleep Rose in his arms.

"We've got a visitor," she told him.

"A visitor?" he asked, confused. He walked towards her and then looked down. Harry stared at him and grinned. "Harry?" he asked, frowning.

"Well, I see that you're perfectly well," Harry said, a broad smile on his face. "And occupied … So I'll leave you two to it, then." He was going to turn round to go to the fireplace, but he stopped and asked, "Are you going to come tomorrow or not?"

"We will," said Hermione.

"Good," nodded Harry. He turned round and walked away, but, after just three steps, he turned round once more, and beamingl he told Ron, "I'm glad to have you back, mate. And I'm happy, very happy, to have you two back."

She felt Ron take her hand in his, and the three of them smiled at one another. With a nod, Harry disappeared through the fireplace. Ron looked at Hermione, and with a smile full of love, said, "To bed?"

"To bed."

— — o — —

"Please …" he begged, moaning. He knew that no one could hear him, and, even if they did, they wouldn't care, or would just laugh. But despite that, he couldn't help but do it, foolishly hoping that something — someone — would get him out of there, or just put an end to his suffering.

Days in that horrible, humid and cold prison were bad, but nights … nights were simply unbearable, especially stormy nights like this one. Unable to sleep, he was sitting on the stone floor, curled in a corner, with his back against the wall and his arms hugging his knees against his chest. He tried to forget about the storm by thinking about how many days he had been there, but he had no answer for that question. Months, at least. Years? He didn't think so, though it felt like an eternity.

An eternity in hell.

A new lightning bolt illuminated the little, narrow cell, and he closed his eyes tightly, letting out a sob. An instant later, a loud thunder resounded, making him cringe and shudder in fear. Yes; he, who once had commanded the elements, who once was able to take the power of a lightning in his hand and use it as he pleased, was now afraid of storms. Well, afraid of almost everything, in fact.

There was nothing left of his formerly unbreakable will, of that power which once had made him feel like a god. Now he was just a defenceless, weak man, doomed to spend his mortal life in that tiny cell, in a place where he never saw the sun, where he was always alone, where everything was boring, and repetitive, and depressing. His world, which once had been the entire planet and beyond, was now reduced to that horrid room, and apart from the little window, he had no way to know what lay beyond the thick stone walls, because he no longer could hear Essence, no longer could perceive it, and the world seemed dark and dull without that vibration he could see everywhere and which made everything seem alive. Now he could not feel the other prisoners, could not feel the guards, could not feel anything but the constant cold and the nostalgia brought by the memories of when he had been a god-like being, of the time in which his simplest wishes set things into motion and his will and power dominated the world.

And now that will was broken, the power lost, and even memories were failing him; sometimes he tried to remember something and was unable to do so. The story of his long life was now scattered with holes and blank spaces. And yet there were other times when hundreds of thoughts, of reminiscences, flooded his mind simultaneously, like an avalanche, causing him headaches and threatening to drive him insane. Fifteen centuries of memories were too much for a human mind, and he was paying for it. And the worst thing was that one part of him cherished the idea of going completely mad, because if he did, surely he would stop realising that his existence was so dull, so monotonous … Maybe that way he wouldn't be conscious of all the things he had lost.

Another, louder thunder resounded outside, and he whimpered, frightened, feeling weak, fragile and insignificant. He, who once had ruled the world; he, who had travelled to distant stars, seen other galaxies, visited other worlds … But that had happened in a time where the only limit was the universe itself, and now he was trapped inside that cell by simple, mundane walls of stone.

During his first day in that place (or had it been the second? Hard to tell the difference when every day was the same) he had almost forgot that he no longer was a Master of Essence and had hit the wall with his fist, with all the force he could muster. The intense jolt of pain that had travelled up his arm the moment his knuckles had made contact with the stone had been a cruel reminder of his new condition … a condition that also prevented him from healing himself and condemned him to endure something as trivial and humiliating as physical pain. He had had to undergo an entire night of agony before begging — how degrading that had been! — the guard that brought him breakfast next morning to heal him with magic.

But of course, the guard had just scowled at him, and with a mixture of hate and satisfaction had reminded him of the guards he had killed the day he had destroyed the prison, and then had walked away, leaving him to suffer.

And as he sat on the hard and uncomfortable mattress, wailing and crying due to the pain, he had thought about them — or tried to, at least —, but had been unable to remember their faces and names. He was aware that, when he had killed them, he had known everything about them; their names, their stories, their lives … but then they were just a bunch of mortal, insignificant people, not interesting at all and definitely not worth remembering. The guards made up for that, however, because during the following days they had made sure to remind him of them, telling him the same thing every time they brought him food: 'Does your hand hurt, monster? Remember Wilhelm Flag —' (or Tom Argley, or any or the other names), '— when you can't sleep tonight.' And he couldn't help but do it, regardless of whether he really wanted to or not.

Had there really been a time when he had killed people without a second thought, without caring at all? Not even because of hate, but because they were meaningless — as meaningless as he himself was now?

He didn't want to think about that. Another lightning lit the cell, and he wished desperately he could know when the storm was going to end. But he no longer could know such things, maybe the worst part of what he had lost, of what he had took from him …

Him. Ronald Weasley, the person who occupied his thoughts most of the time. Was he suffering like him? Or was he coping? He had been a Master of Essence considerably less time than him, but still, surely he felt the loss in his soul?

And yet, even if he did, he was not confined in a prison, and he had his daughter, and Hermione Granger, and Harry Potter, whom he couldn't help but see in another light, after what Ron and he had shared. There were loads of things he couldn't remember anymore, but hadn't forgotten how he had laughed at Ron, how he had insulted him, how he had mocked him for loving Hermione, called him a fool …

And it had turned out that it was him, Sbalkal, who had been a fool. It had taken him a long time to admit that to himself, but the truth of it was undeniable. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger … they were supposed to be his tools, his puppets in the plan to conquer Voldemort's corrupted soul; but, in the end, they had been his downfall, too. In the end, he, Sbalkal, had proven to be as foolish as Voldemort had been, or close to it. He had made fun of Ron, had killed his loved ones, had made him suffer in his attempt to destroy him. And yes, he had lost his powers as well, but ultimately, he still had a reason to keep going, to enjoy life, while he, Sbalkal, had none. He, who once had considered dying an unforgivable weakness, now found himself almost wishing to leave this world that could no longer offer anything to him but pain and suffering.

He thought of all the things he had done, of all the people who had suffered and died so he could recover his lost power. It all had been for nothing, because, in the end, he had ended up in a worse state … had ended up being what he had despised for so long: a simple human.

He let out a loud wail of despair, sad and desperate. As if mocking him, another lightning lit the room, and he shut his eyes tightly. And while his eyes were closed he saw little Rose in his mind, the person Ron loved the most in the world. He had felt that before, the love for a son or a daughter, in thousands, millions of humans, and he had never cared about it, arrogant as he was, so sure of his own superiority. But he had never experienced it the way he had tasted Ron's love for Rose, because he had been him, and no matter how much he hated him, in a way, he couldn't help but love what he loved, what he cherished … what he had.

A daughter. A wife. A best friend. A family … Things he hadn't valued in a long time and which he would never get. And the image of Rose brought him the memory of little Emily Blevelty, lying on her bed at St Mungo's, pale and lifeless, her father crying beside her, desperate …

He had done that, had done that to an innocent child, to someaone's daughter. He had ordered his servants to kill Rose, to kill Hermione, even if he was sure Ron would save them, allowing him to escape …

Many, too many terrible things he had done, all for a dream, all for the promise of the ultimate power, all for …

All for nothing, because, in the end, he had lost everything at the hands of the man he had despised, the man he had considered unworthy of his power, undeserving of Pyret's knowledge, the Master of Essence who was in love

As the storm intensified around the prison, he buried his head between his knees and began to sob, feeling, for the first time in a very long time, the slightest trace of regret.


Well, it's been a long journey, but it has come to an end. I hope you liked it as much as me, and if you did, leave a review.

Anyway, this is my goodbye as a fanfiction writer. I cannot say I won't ever write again, but never one story like this or Those Four Last Days of the War. Thanks to all my reviewers, to all of you who read this and supported me, and, again, sorry for the long wait.

See you!